St. Edward catechist receives national honor

St. Edward School’s sixth-graders gestured as Joshua Huff, right, taught them a song based on a story in the Gospel of Matthew Feb. 7. In the story, Jesus tells his disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew, that he’ll make them “Fishers of Men,” something Huff is aiming to do with his students. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

When ministering to children and youth, Joshua Huff says his goal is always to form and foster a relationship with the young person first.

Huff has served as director of youth ministry and youth catechesis at St. Edward Church for seven years. He recently received “Catechist Honors” from Catechist Magazine for being a “vibrant, inspiring presence for youth.”

The 50-year-old publication honors 10 individuals from around the nation each year.

Huff ministers to children in preschool through eighth-grade at St. Edward School. He also works with high schoolers who attend the parish and offers preparation for the sacraments to parish children who attend public schools.

Frances Ashbrook, a St. Edward parishioner who made the nomination, said Huff has created a “vibrant, welcoming and growing community to both our junior high and high school students.”

“He has created an environment of fellowship and faith open to our school and parish students where all are invited to bring friends,” Ashbrook said in her nomination.

Though his life’s work is now in the church, Huff said he never thought he’d make ministry his career.

If you’d told me in middle school or high school that I’d be working in ministry, I would have said ‘you’re crazy,’ ” said Huff with a laugh. “Now, I love every minute of it. It’s where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Looking back Huff said he had lots of guidance, which lead him to the path he is on.

His faith, he said, is rooted in his family. His grandmother was especially instrumental in passing on the Catholic faith to him, he said.

“The main reason I am Catholic is because of my grandmother. She came from a strong Catholic background. She told me growing up that ‘no one can take away your faith’ and I always believed that,” said Huff.

He grew up attending Our Mother of Good Counsel Church, where Father John Judie, now retired, was pastor. Father Judie always had time for him no matter how many people were in church, Huff said.

“He was always present. All that he instilled in me I bring to my ministry today,” said Huff.

In high school, Huff said he didn’t “act” on his faith as much as he should have, but Mary Emrich, who was the campus minister at Trinity High School at the time, provided guidance.

“She saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. She helped me build an avenue to get me to where I am,” said Huff.

After Huff graduated from Trinity, Emrich invited him to lead student retreats, and that was the start of his career in ministry to young people, said Huff.

He still leads retreats for Trinity students. Through Emrich’s invitation, Huff has also hosted Christian Leadership Institute — a conference for high school students designed to foster leadership skills in a Christian context.

Huff said he approaches every encounter with a young person with an “outgoing, loving and happy mindset” because that’s what was done for him as a young person growing up.

“It was about their invitation and that same approach, which brought me to where I am. It’s important to make sure every day that they’re loved, seen and heard and to let them know they don’t have to have all the answers when it comes to faith,” said Huff.

“It’s about making faith fun and understandable,” he said. “ ‘Let’s talk about you and how you understand faith and how it connects back to what we believe as Catholics and how we live the Gospel.’ ”

Huff said he also draws upon the U.S. bishops’ 1997 document “Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry” in his work with young people.

One of the teachings in that document is the importance of building a personal relationship within which the young person can encounter God.

“It’s what they (his mentors) did for me. They established a relationship with me, they got to look at my potential and my gifts then they talked about a relationship with Jesus. The groundwork was laid,” said Huff.

His goal is to do the same for the young people he ministers to he said.

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